nLab supergravity C-field



String theory

Differential cohomology



The field content of 11-dimensional supergravity contains a higher U(1)-gauge field called the supergravity C-field or M-theory 3-form , which is locally a 3-form and globally some variant of a circle 3-bundle with connection.

There have been several suggestions for what precisely its correct global description must be, see at Models below

Consistency conditions

Several subtle consistency conditions (quantum anomaly cancellation-conditions) have been argued for the charge quantization of the supergravity C-field:

  1. Shifted flux quantization condition

  2. C-Field tadpole cancellation condition

Shifted flux quantization condition

The shifted C-field flux quantization condition is a charge quantization-condition on the supergravity C-field expected in M-theory. It says that the real cohomology class of the flux density (field strength) differential 4-form G 4Ω 4(X)G_4 \in \Omega^4(X) on spacetime XX becomes integral after shifted by one quarter of the first Pontryagin class, hence the condition that with the shifted 4-flux density defined as

(1)G˜ 4G 4+14p 1( TX)Ω 4(X) \widetilde G_4 \;\coloneqq\; G_4 + \tfrac{1}{4}p_1(\nabla_{T X}) \;\in\; \Omega^4(X)

(for TX\nabla_{T X} any affine connection on spacetime, in particular the Levi-Civita connection) we have (using the de Rham theorem to translate from de Rham cohomology to real cohomology) that G˜ 4\widetilde G_4 represents an integral cohomology-class:

[G˜ 4]H 4(X,)H 4(X,)H 4(X,). [\widetilde G_4] \;\in\; H^4(X, \mathbb{Z}) \overset{H^4(X, \mathbb{Z}\hookrightarrow \mathbb{R})}{\longrightarrow} H^4(X, \mathbb{R}) \,.

This condition was originally argued for in (Witten 96a, Witten 96b) as a sufficient condition for ensuring that the prequantum line bundle for the 7d Chern-Simons theory on an M5-brane worldvolume is divisible by 2.

Proposals for encoding this condition by a Wu class-shifted variant of stable ordinary differential cohomology were considered in Hopkins-Singer 02, Diaconescu-Freed-Moore 03, FSS 12.

It turns out that the shifted flux quantization condition on the C-field is naturally implied (FSS1 19b, Prop. 4.12) by the requirement that G 4G_4 is the differential form datum underlying, via Sullivan's theorem, a cocycle in unstable J- twisted Cohomotopy in degree 4 (Hypothesis H).

C-Field tadpole cancellation condition

In M-theory compactified on 8-dimensional compact fibers X (8)X^{(8)} (see M-theory on 8-manifolds) tadpole cancellation condition for the supergravity C-field has been argued (Sethi-Vafa-Witten 96, Becker-Becker 96, Dasgupta-Mukhi 97) to be the condition

N M2+12(G 4[X (8)]) 2=148(p 2(12p 1) 2)[X 8]I 8(X 8)!, N_{M2} \;+\; \tfrac{1}{2} \big( G_4[X^{(8)}]\big)^2 \;=\; \underset{ I_8(X^8) }{ \underbrace{ \tfrac{1}{48}\big( p_2 - (\tfrac{1}{2}p_1)^2 \big)[X^{8}] } } \;\;\;\; \overset{!}{\in} \mathbb{Z} \,,


  1. N M2N_{M2} is the net number of M2-branes in the spacetime (whose worldvolume appears as points in X (8)X^{(8)});

  2. G 4G_4 is the field strength/flux of the supergravity C-field

  3. p 1p_1 is the first Pontryagin class and p 2p_2 the second Pontryagin class combining to I8, all regarded here in rational homotopy theory.

If X 8X^{8} has



12(p 214(p 1) 2)=χ \tfrac{1}{2}\big( p_2 - \tfrac{1}{4}(p_1)^2 \big) \;=\; \chi

is the Euler class (see this Prop. and this Prop., respectively), hence in these cases the condition is equivalently

(2)N M2=12(G 4[X (8)]) 2+124χ[X 8], N_{M2} \;=\; - \tfrac{1}{2} \big( G_4[X^{(8)}]\big)^2 \;+\; \tfrac{1}{24}\chi[X^8] \;\;\;\; \in \mathbb{Z} \,,

where χ[X]\chi[X] is the Euler characteristic of XX.


One proposal for a mathematical model of the C-field is as a cocycle in a Wu class-shifted variant of ordinary differential cohomology in degree 4:

Another proposal is that the C-field is simply a cocycle in J- twisted Cohomotopy (Hypothesis H):

The DFM-model

Construction via E 8E_8 gauge fields

In (DFM, section 3) the following definition is considered and argued to be a good model of the supergravity CC-field.


The homotopy groups of the classifying space BE 8B E_8 of the Lie group E8 satisfy

π iBE 8={|i=4 0|i4,i15. \pi_i B E_8 = \left\{ \array{ \mathbb{Z} | i = 4 \\ 0 | i \neq 4, i \leq 15 } \right. \,.

Therefore for XX a manifold of dimension dimX15dim X \leq 15 there is a canonical morphism

H 1(X,E 8)H 4(X,). H^1(X, E_8) \simeq H^4(X, \mathbb{Z}) \,.

Let XX be a smooth manifold of dimension dimX<15dim X \lt 15. For each aH 4(X,)a \in H^4(X, \mathbb{Z}). choose an E8-principal bundle PXP \to X which represents aa under the above isomorphism.

Write then

E(X)Grpd \mathbf{E}(X) \in Grpd

for the groupoid whose

  • objects are triples (P,,c)(P,\nabla,c) where

    • PP is one of the chosen E 8E_8-bundles,

    • \nabla is a connection on PP;

    • cΩ 3(X)c \in \Omega^3(X) is a degree-3 differential form on XX.

  • morphisms ω:(P, 1,c 1)(P, 2,c 2)\omega : (P, \nabla_1, c_1) \to (P, \nabla_2, c_2)

    are parameterized by their source and target triples together with a closed 3-form ωΩ 3(X)\omega \in \Omega^3_{\mathbb{Z}}(X) with integral periods, subject to the condition that

    c 2c 1=CS( 1, 2)+ω, c_2 -c_1 = CS(\nabla_1,\nabla_2) + \omega \,,

    where CS( 1, 2)CS(\nabla_1, \nabla_2) is the relative Chern-Simons form corresponding to the linear path of connections from 1\nabla_1 to 2\nabla_2

  • the composition of morphisms

    (ω 2ω 1):(P, 1,C 1)ω 1(P, 2,C 2)ω 2(P, 3,C 3) (\omega_2 \circ \omega_1 ) : (P,\nabla_1, C_1) \stackrel{\omega_1}{\to} (P, \nabla_2, C_2) \stackrel{\omega_2}{\to} (P, \nabla_3, C_3)

    is given by

    ω 1+ω 2+( 2 1)( 32). \omega_1 + \omega_2 + \langle (\nabla_2-\nabla_1)\wedge(\nabla_3-\nabla2) \rangle \,.

See (DFM, (3.22), (3.23)).

Here we think of XX as equipped with a pseudo Riemannian structure and spin connection ω\omega and think of each object (P,,C)(P,\nabla,C) of E(X)\mathbf{E}(X) as inducing an degree-4 cocycle in ordinary differential cohomology with curvature 4-form

𝒢 ,c=trF F 12trR ωR ω+dc. \mathcal{G}_{\nabla,c} = tr F_\nabla \wedge F_\nabla - \frac{1}{2} tr R_\omega \wedge R_\omega + d c \,.

Notice that with the normalization implicit here the second terms is one half of the image of something in integral cohomology. So this is not itself a differential character, but can be regarded as “shifted differential character”: a trivialization of the trivial 5-character with global connection 4-form given by 12trR ωR ω\frac{1}{2} tr R_\omega \wedge R_\omega. See below for more on this.


The above groupoid has homotopy groups

  • π 0H diff 4(Y)\pi_0 \simeq H^4_{diff}(Y)

  • π 1(,(,c))H 2(Y,U(1))\pi_1(-,(\nabla,c)) \simeq H^2(Y, U(1)) .

The first, the set of connected components (gauge equivalence classes of CC-fields) is isomorphic to the set of ordinary differential cohomology in degree 4 of XX. In fact π 0\pi_0 is naturally a torsor over this abelian group: the torsor of 12trR 2\frac{1}{2}tr R^2-shifted differential characters.

The second, the fundamental group, is that of flat circle bundles.

Orientation and fractional classes

Ordinarily, given a Spin×E 8Spin \times E_8-bundle PYP \to Y with first fractional Pontryagin class

λ:=12p 1(P) \lambda := \frac{1}{2}p_1(P)

and second Chern class

a:=c 2(P) a := c_2(P)

the CC-field is supposed to have a curvature class in de Rham cohomology given by

a dR+12λ dRH dR 4(Y). a_{dR} + \frac{1}{2} \lambda_{dR} \in H_{dR}^4(Y) \,.

Since in general λ=12p 1(P)\lambda = \frac{1}{2}p_1(P) is not further divisible in integral cohomology, this means that this cannot be the curvature of any differential character/bundle 2-gerbe/circle 3-bundle with connection, since these are necessarily the images in de Rham cohomology of their integral classes.

See (DFM 03, section 12.1, FSS 12)

Restriction to the boundary

By DFM, section 12 on a manifold YY with boundary X=YX = \partial Y we are to impose C| Y=0C|_{\partial Y} = 0.

See the discussion below for how this reproduces the Green-Schwarz mechanism for heterotic supergravity on the boundary.

Description in \infty-Chern-Weil theory

Some remarks on ways to regard the CC-field from the point of view of ∞-Chern-Weil theory.

Abstract definition

We shall consider the sum of two CC fields, whose curvature is the image in de Rham cohomology of the proper integral class 2aλ2 a - \lambda

Recall from the discussion at circle n-bundle with connection that in the cohesive (∞,1)-topos H:=\mathbf{H} := Smooth∞Grpd the circle 3-bundles with local 3-form connection over an object YHY \in \mathbf{H} (for instance a smooth manifold, or an orbifold) are objects in the 3-groupoid H diff(Y,B 3U(1))\mathbf{H}_{diff}(Y, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) that is the (∞,1)-pullback

H diff(Y,B 3U(1)) H dR 4(Y) H(Y,B 3U(1)) curv H(Y, dRB 4U(1)) \array{ \mathbf{H}_{diff}(Y, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\to& H^4_{dR}(Y) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\stackrel{curv}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{\flat}_{dR} \mathbf{B}^4 U(1)) }

in ∞Grpd.

(Recall from the discussion there that if desired one may pass to the canonical presentation of this by the model structure on simplicial presheaves over CartSp and that in this explicit presentation we may replace H dR 4(Y)H^4_{dR}(Y) with the more familiar Ω cl 4(Y)\Omega^4_{cl}(Y). )

We consider now the analog of this definition for the universal curvature form on B 3U(1)\mathbf{B}^3 U(1) replaced by the difference of the differentially refined second Chern class of E8 and the first fractional Pontryagin class of the spin group. The resulting (,1)(\infty,1)-pullback we tentatively call CField(Y)C Field(Y), though we shall have to discuss to which extend this faithfully models the CC-field, and which aspects of it.


For YY \in Smooth∞Grpd, let CField(Y)C Field(Y) \in ∞Grpd be the (∞,1)-pullback

CField(Y) H dR 4(Y) H(Y,B(Spin×E 8)) (2c 2) dR(12p 1) dR H(Y, dRB 4U(1)). \array{ C Field(Y) &\to& H^4_{dR}(Y) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{B} (Spin \times E_8)) &\stackrel{(2\mathbf{c}_2)_{dR}- (\frac{1}{2}\mathbf{p}_1)_{dR}}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{\flat}_{dR} \mathbf{B}^4 U(1)) } \,.

By its intrinsic definition we have that the differential characteristic class (c 2) dR(\mathbf{c}_2)_{dR} is the composite

(c 2) dR:BE 8c 2B 3U(1)curv dRB 4U(1) (\mathbf{c}_2)_{dR} : \mathbf{B}E_8 \stackrel{\mathbf{c}_2}{\to} \mathbf{B}^3 U(1) \stackrel{curv}{\to} \mathbf{\flat}_{dR} \mathbf{B}^4 U(1)

of the smooth refinement of the second Chern class with the universal curvature form on B 3U(1)\mathbf{B}^3 U(1). Similarly for (12p 2) dR(\frac{1}{2}\mathbf{p}_2)_{dR}.

Therefore we may either compute the (∞,1)-pullback in def. directly, or in two consecutive steps. Both methods lead to their insights.


we consider general abstract consequences of the above definition, mainly making use of the factorization. In

we find a presentation by simplicial presheaves of the direct homotopy pullback.

In the first approach connections on the E8-principal bundles never appear explicitly. In the second approach they appear as pseudo-connections, or as genuine connections whose morphisms are however allowed to shift them arbitrarily. This means that these connections are purely auxiliary data that serve to present the required homotopies. They do not survive in cohomology. This is as in the DFM model above.

Finally in

we comment how genuine E 8E_8-connections may appear inside the second presentation of the CC-model.

General properties

This implies by the pasting law for (∞,1)-pullbacks that the (,1)(\infty,1)-pullback from def. may be decomposed into two consecutive pullbacks of the form

CField(X) χ^ H diff(X,B 3U(1)) ω H dR 4(X) H(X,B(E 8×Spin(10,1))) 2c 212p 2 H(X,B 3U(1)) curv H(X, dRB 4U(1)), \array{ C Field(X) &\stackrel{\hat \chi}{\to}& \mathbf{H}_{diff}(X, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\stackrel{\omega}{\to}& H^4_{dR}(X) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{H}(X, \mathbf{B}(E_8 \times Spin(10,1))) &\stackrel{2\mathbf{c}_2- \frac{1}{2}\mathbf{p}_2}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(X, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\stackrel{curv}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(X, \mathbf{\flat}_{dR} \mathbf{B}^4 U(1)) } \,,

where on the right we find the defining pullback for (the cocycle 3-groupoid of) ordinary differential cohomology.


This implies the following structure and properties.


By the above there exists canonically a morphism

χ^:CField(X)H(X,B 3U(1))τ 0H diff 4(X) \hat \chi : C Field(X) \to \mathbf{H}(X,\mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) \stackrel{\tau_{\leq 0}}{\to} H^4_{diff}(X)

that maps CC-field configurations to ordinary differential cohomology in degree 4, whose curvature ω(χ^)\omega(\hat \chi) is the image (c 2) dR(12p 2) dR:=curv(2c 212p 2)(\mathbf{c}_2)_{dR}- (\frac{1}{2}\mathbf{p}_2)_{dR} := curv(2\mathbf{c}_2 - \frac{1}{2}\mathbf{p}_2) in de Rham cohomology of the second Chern-class of some E 8E_8-bundle.

The differential cocycle χ^(C)\hat \chi(C) has all the general properties that make its higher parallel transport over membrane worldvolumes be well-defined. (Apart from the coefficient of λ\lambda, this is the only requirement from which DFM deduce their model.)

The following proposition describes the first two homotopy groups of the 3-groupoid CField(Y)C Field(Y).


Over a fixed SpinSpin-principal bundle P SpinP_{Spin} we have a short exact sequence (of pointed sets)

*H 3(Y,U(1))π 0CField P Spin(Y)H dR 4(Y) 2* * \to H^3(Y, U(1)) \to \pi_0 C Field_{P_{Spin}}(Y) \to H^4_{dR}(Y)_{2 \mathbb{Z}} \to *


π 0CField P Spin(Y)\pi_0 C Field_{P_{Spin}}(Y) is the group of pairs ([c],f)H 2(X,U(1))×C (X,E 8)([c], f) \in H^2(X, U(1)) \times C^\infty(X, E_8) where ff is a smooth refinement under E 8 14B 2U(1)K(,3)E_8 \simeq_{14} B^2 U(1) \simeq K(\mathbb{Z},3) of the integral image of [c][c].


Notice that we have the pasting diagram of (∞,1)-pullbacks

CField ω(χ^())=0(Y) H(Y,B 3U(1)) * 0 CField(Y) χ^ H diff(Y,B 3U(1)) ω H dR 4(Y) H(Y,BE 8) 2c 2 H(Y,B 3U(1)) curv H(Y, dRB 4U(1)), \array{ C Field_{\omega(\hat \chi(-)) = 0}(Y) &\to& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{\flat} \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\to& {*} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{0}} \\ C Field(Y) &\stackrel{\hat \chi}{\to}& \mathbf{H}_{diff}(Y, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\stackrel{\omega}{\to}& H^4_{dR}(Y) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{B}E_8) &\stackrel{2\mathbf{c}_2}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) &\stackrel{curv}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{\flat}_{dR} \mathbf{B}^4 U(1)) } \,,

where the top right square is discussed at cohesive (∞,1)-topos – Differential cohomology. By the discussion at smooth ∞-groupoid – Flat cohomology we have that π 0H(Y,B 3U(1))H 3(Y,U(1))\pi_0 \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{\flat} \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) \simeq H^3(Y,U(1)), where on the right we have ordinary cohomology (for instance realized as singular cohomology). Finally observe that π 0H(Y,E 8)π 0H(Y.B 3U(1))\pi_0 \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{E}_8) \simeq \pi_0 \mathbf{H}(Y.\mathbf{B}^3 U(1)), by the above remark. Therefore after passing to connected components by applying π 0()\pi_0(-) we get on cohomology

H 3(Y,U(1)) 2 H 3(Y,U(1)) * 0 π 0CField(Y) χ^ H diff 4(Y) ω H dR 4(Y) H 1(Y,E 8) 2 H 4(Y,) curv H dR 4(Y) \array{ H^3(Y, U(1)) & \stackrel{\cdot 2}{\to}& H^3(Y, U(1)) &\to& {*} \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{0}} \\ \pi_0 C Field(Y) &\stackrel{\hat \chi}{\to}& \mathbf{H}_{diff}^4(Y) &\stackrel{\omega}{\to}& H^4_{dR}(Y) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ H^1(Y, E_8) & \stackrel{\cdot 2}{\to}& H^4(Y, \mathbb{Z}) &\stackrel{curv}{\to}& H^4_{dR}(Y) }

by reasoning as discussed at fiber sequence. In parallel to the familiar short exact sequence for ordinary differential cohomology

*H 3(Y,U(1))H diff 4(Y)H dR 4(Y) *. * \to H^3(Y, U(1)) \to H^4_{diff}(Y) \to H^4_{dR}(Y)_{\mathbb{Z}} \to * \,.

this therefore implies also the short exact sequence

*H 3(Y,U(1))π 0CFieldH dR 4(Y) 2*. * \to H^3(Y, U(1)) \to \pi_0 C Field \to H^4_{dR}(Y)_{2 \mathbb{Z}} \to * \,.

Next we redo the entire discussion after applying the loop space object-construction to everything. Using that

ΩH(Y,BQ)H(Y,ΩBQ)H(Y,Q) \Omega \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{B}Q) \simeq \mathbf{H}(Y, \Omega \mathbf{B}Q) \simeq \mathbf{H}(Y, Q)

on general grounds (see fiber sequence for details) and that also

Ω(B nU(1))B n1U(1) \Omega (\mathbf{\flat}\mathbf{B}^n U(1)) \simeq \mathbf{\flat}\mathbf{B}^{n-1} U(1)


Ω( dRB nU(1)) dRB n1U(1) \Omega (\mathbf{\flat}_{dR}\mathbf{B}^n U(1)) \simeq \mathbf{\flat}_{dR}\mathbf{B}^{n-1} U(1)

(since \mathbf{\flat} and dR\mathbf{\flat}_{dR} are right adjoint (∞,1)-functors – by the discussion at cohesive (∞,1)-topos – and hence commute with the (∞,1)-pullback that defines Ω\Omega), we have then the looped pasting diagram of (∞,1)-pullbacks

ΩCField(Y) P Spin Ωχ^ H flat(Y,B 2U(1)) ω * H(Y,E 8) 2Ωc 2 H(Y,B 2U(1)) curv H(Y, dRB 3U(1)). \array{ \Omega C Field(Y)_{P_{Spin}} &\stackrel{\Omega \hat \chi}{\to}& \mathbf{H}_{flat}(Y, \mathbf{B}^2 U(1)) &\stackrel{\omega}{\to}& * \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ \mathbf{H}(Y, E_8) &\stackrel{2\Omega \mathbf{c}_2}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{B}^2 U(1)) &\stackrel{curv}{\to}& \mathbf{H}(Y, \mathbf{\flat}_{dR} \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)) } \,.

Observe that E 8E_8 here is a smooth but 0-truncated object: so that

H(Y,E 8)H 0(Y,E 8)=C (Y,E 8) \mathbf{H}(Y, E_8) \simeq H^0(Y, E_8) = C^\infty(Y, E_8)

is the set of smooth functions YE 8Y \to E_8 (to be thought of as the the set of gauge transformations from the trivial E 8E_8-principal bundle on YY to itself).

Presentation by differential form data

In order to compute the (,1)(\infty,1)-pullback CField(X)C Field(X) more explicitly, we follow the discussion at differential string structure, where presentations of this pullback in terms of simplicial presheaves arising from Lie integration is given.

Write now

𝔤:=𝔢 8×𝔢 8×𝔰𝔬(10,1) \mathfrak{g} := \mathfrak{e}_8 \times \mathfrak{e}_8 \times \mathfrak{so}(10,1)

for the Lie algebra of G:=E 8×E 8×Spin(10,1)G := E_8 \times E_8 \times Spin(10,1) and write

μ:=μ 𝔢 8+μ 𝔢 8μ 𝔰𝔬(10,1) \mu := \mu_{\mathfrak{e}_8} + \mu_{\mathfrak{e}_8} - \mu_{\mathfrak{so}(10,1)}

for the sum of the canonical Lie algebra cocycles in transgression with the respective Killing form invariant polynomials.


𝔢 8×𝔰𝔬(10,1)𝔤 \mathfrak{e}_8 \times \mathfrak{so}(10,1) \to \mathfrak{g}

for the canonical diagonal embedding Write

c:= cosk 3(exp(𝔢 8×𝔰𝔬(10,1))) Δ cosk 3(exp(𝔤)) exp(μ) B 3U(1) c BG \array{ \mathbf{c} := & \mathbf{cosk}_3( \exp(\mathfrak{e}_8 \times \mathfrak{so}(10,1)) ) &\stackrel{\Delta}{\to}& \mathbf{cosk}_3( \exp(\mathfrak{g}) ) & \stackrel{\exp(\mu)}{\to} & \mathbf{B}^3 U(1)_c \\ \downarrow^{\simeq} \\ \mathbf{B}G }

for the corresponding smooth characteristic class. See ∞-Chern-Weil homomorphism for details. By the discussion there we present c^\hat \mathbf{c} by

cosk 3exp(b𝔤 μ) diff B 4 dR BE 8. \array{ \mathbf{cosk_3} \exp(b \mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{g}_\mu)_{diff} &\to& \mathbf{B}^4 \mathbb{R}_{dR} \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\simeq}} \\ \mathbf{B}E_8 } \,.

By the discussion at differential string structure we have that the top morphism is a fibration in the global projective model structure on simplicial presheaves [CartSp op,sSet] proj[CartSp^{op}, sSet]_{proj} (there it is shown that the analogous morphism out of cosk 3exp(b𝔢 8) ChW\mathbf{cosk_3} \exp(b \mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{e}_8)_{ChW} is a fibration, but then so is this one, because the components on the left are the same but with fewer conditions on them, so that the lifts that existed before still exist here).

Over some UU \in CartSp and [k]Δ[k] \in \Delta we have that exp(b 𝔤 μ) diff\exp(b^\mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{g}_\mu)_{diff} is given by differential form data

(F A= dA+12[AA] C 3= B:=dB+CS(A)H 3 𝒢 4= dH 3 dF A= [AF A] dC 3= F AF A𝒢 4 d𝒢 4= 0) it a A a r a F A a b B c C 3 h H 3 g 𝒢 4|(r a= dt a+12C a bct bt c+ c= db+csh g= dh dr a= C a bct br a dc= ,g dg= 0) \left( \array{ F_A =& d A + \frac{1}{2}[A \wedge A] \\ C_3 =& \nabla B := d B + CS(A) - H_3 \\ \mathcal{G}_4 =& d H_3 \\ d F_A =& - [A \wedge F_A] \\ d C_3 =& \langle F_A \wedge F_A\rangle - \mathcal{G}_4 \\ d \mathcal{G}_4 =& 0 } \right)_i \;\;\;\; \stackrel{ \array{ t^a & \mapsto A^a \\ r^a & \mapsto F^a_A \\ b & \mapsto B \\ c & \mapsto C_3 \\ h & \mapsto H_3 \\ g & \mapsto \mathcal{G}_4 } }{\leftarrow}| \;\;\;\; \left( \array{ r^a =& d t^a + \frac{1}{2}C^a{}_{b c} t^b \wedge t^c + \\ c = & d b + cs - h \\ g =& d h \\ d r^a =& - C^a{}_{b c} t^b \wedge r^a \\ d c =& \langle -,-\rangle - g \\ d g =& 0 } \right)

on U×Δ kU \times \Delta^k. Here, recall, AA takes values in 𝔤=𝔢 8×𝔢×𝔰𝔬(10,1)\mathfrak{g} = \mathfrak{e}_8 \times \mathfrak{e} \times \mathfrak{so}(10,1), so that for instance the 𝒢 4\mathcal{G}_4-curvature is in detail given by

(3)𝒢 4=dH 3=F A 𝔢 8 LF A 𝔢 8 L+F A 𝔢 8 RF A 𝔢 8 RF ωF ωdC 3, \mathcal{G}_4 = d H_3 = \langle F_{A^L_{\mathfrak{e}_8}} \wedge F_{A^L_{\mathfrak{e}_8}} \rangle + \langle F_{A^R_{\mathfrak{e}_8}} \wedge F_{A^R_{\mathfrak{e}_8}} \rangle - \langle F_{\omega} \wedge F_{\omega} \rangle - d C_3 \,,

where ω\omega denotes the spin connection.

Let {U iX}\{U_i \to X\} be a differentiably good open cover. We hit all connected components of H(X,BG)\mathbf{H}(X, \mathbf{B}G) by considering in

[CartSp op,sSet](C(U i),exp(b𝔤 μ)) diff [CartSp^{op}, sSet](C(U_i), \exp(b \mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{g}_\mu))_{diff}

those cocycles that

  • involve genuine GG-connections (as opposed to the more general pseudo-connections that are also contained);

  • have a globally defined C 3C_3-form.

Write therefore (P,,C 3)(P, \nabla, C_3) for such a cocycle.

For gauge transformations between two such pairs, parameterized by the above form data patchwise on U×Δ 1U \times \Delta^1, the fact that 𝒢 4\mathcal{G}_4 vanishes on Δ 1\Delta^1 implies the infinitesmal gauge transformation law

ddtC=d Uω t+ι tF A^F A^, \frac{d}{d t} C = d_U \omega_t + \iota_t \langle F_{\hat A} \wedge F_{\hat A}\rangle \,,

where A^Ω 1(U×Δ 1,𝔢 8)\hat A\in \Omega^1(U \times \Delta^1, \mathfrak{e}_8) is the shift of the 1-forms. This integrates to

(4)C 2=C 1+dω+CS( 1, 2), C_2 = C_1 + d \omega + CS(\nabla_1,\nabla_2) \,,


  • ω:= Δ 1ω t\omega := \int_{\Delta^1} \omega_t

  • CS( 1, 2)= Δ 1F ^F ^CS(\nabla_1, \nabla_2) = \int_{\Delta^1} \langle F_{\hat \nabla} \wedge F_{\hat \nabla}\rangle is the relative Chern-Simons form corresponding to the shift of GG-connection.

Restriction to the boundary

We have seen that CField(Y)C Field(Y) is the 3-groupoid of those Cech cocycles on YY with coefficients in exp(b𝔤 μ) diff\exp(b \mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{g}_\mu)_{diff} such that the curvature 4-form 𝒢 4\mathcal{G}_4 has a fixed globally defined value.

Consider the subobject

exp(b𝔤 μ) diff C=0exp(b𝔤 μ) diff \exp(b \mathbb{R} - \mathfrak{g}_\mu)_{diff}^{C = 0} \hookrightarrow \exp(b \mathbb{R} - \mathfrak{g}_\mu)_{diff}

of the simplicial presheaf exp(b𝔤 μ)\exp(b \mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{g}_\mu) on those objects and k-morphisms for which C=0C = 0.

By the gauge transformation law (4)

C 2=C 1+dω+CS(A 1,A 2) C_2 = C_1 + d \omega + CS(A_1, A_2)

this means that this picks those morphisms for which the Chern-Simons form vanishes

CS(A 1,A 2)= Δ 1F AF A=0, CS(A_1,A_2) = \int_{\Delta^1} \langle F_{A} \wedge F_{A}\rangle = 0 \,,

where A=A U+λdtΩ 1(U×Δ 1,𝔤)A = A_U + \lambda d t \in \Omega^1(U \times \Delta^1, \mathfrak{g}) is the 1-form datum (with tt the canonical coordinate on the 1-simplex Δ 1=[0,1]\Delta^1 = [0,1]).


In the literature often the relative Chern-Simons form is considered for “ungauged” paths of connections: for λ=0\lambda = 0 in the above formula, hence for a 𝔤\mathfrak{g}-valued 1-form on U×Δ 1U \times \Delta^1 with no leg along the simplex (only depending on the simplex coordinate). Here, however, it is crucially important that we consider the general “gauged” paths.

Notice that on the semisimple Lie algebra and compact Lie algebra 𝔢 8\mathfrak{e}_8 the Killing form ,\langle -,-\rangle is non-degenerate and positive definite (or negative definite, depending on convention). The latter condition means that this integral vanishes precisely if

ι tF AF A=0. \iota_{\partial_t} \langle F_A \wedge F_A \rangle = 0 \,.

This is the case on paths for which ι tF A=0\iota_t F_A = 0 , but this are exactly the paths that induce genuine gauge transformations between A 1A_1 and A 2A_2, where

ddtA=d Uλ+[λ,A]. \frac{d}{d t} A = d_U \lambda + [\lambda , A] \,.

This means that cocycles with coefficients in this subobject for C=0C = 0 are cocycles as described at differential string structure, exhibiting the Green-Schwarz mechanism on the heterotic boundary, witnessed by the restriction of the curvature equation (3) to vanishing CC-field

dH 3 L=F A 𝔢 8 LF A 𝔢 8 L12F ωF ω d H_3^L = \langle F_{A^L_{\mathfrak{e}_8}} \wedge F_{A^L_{\mathfrak{e}_8}} \rangle - \frac{1}{2}\langle F_{\omega} \wedge F_{\omega} \rangle

Model by twisted Cohomotopy

It turns out that the shifted C-field flux quantization condition is naturally implied (FSS1 19b, Prop. 4.12) by the requirement that G 4G_4 is the differential form datum underlying, via Sullivan's theorem, a cocycle in unstable J- twisted Cohomotopy in degree 4 (Hypothesis H).

Table of branes appearing in supergravity/string theory (for classification see at brane scan).

branein supergravitycharged under gauge fieldhas worldvolume theory
black branesupergravityhigher gauge fieldSCFT
D-branetype IIRR-fieldsuper Yang-Mills theory
(D=2n)(D = 2n)type IIA\,\,
D0-brane\,\,BFSS matrix model
D4-brane\,\,D=5 super Yang-Mills theory with Khovanov homology observables
D6-brane\,\,D=7 super Yang-Mills theory
(D=2n+1)(D = 2n+1)type IIB\,\,
D1-brane\,\,2d CFT with BH entropy
D3-brane\,\,N=4 D=4 super Yang-Mills theory
(D25-brane)(bosonic string theory)
NS-branetype I, II, heteroticcircle n-connection\,
string\,B2-field2d SCFT
NS5-brane\,B6-fieldlittle string theory
D-brane for topological string\,
M-brane11D SuGra/M-theorycircle n-connection\,
M2-brane\,C3-fieldABJM theory, BLG model
M5-brane\,C6-field6d (2,0)-superconformal QFT
M9-brane/O9-planeheterotic string theory
topological M2-branetopological M-theoryC3-field on G2-manifold
topological M5-brane\,C6-field on G2-manifold
membrane instanton
M5-brane instanton
D3-brane instanton
solitons on M5-brane6d (2,0)-superconformal QFT
self-dual stringself-dual B-field
3-brane in 6d


The C-field in D=11 supergravity originates as the A μνρA_{\mu\nu\rho}-field in

Re-derivation in the D'Auria-Fré formulation of supergravity:

Review in:

The shifted C-field flux quantization condition was originally proposed in

Proposals to model the condition by a Wu class-shifted variant of ordinary differential cohomology include the following:

A detailed discussion of the quantum anomaly of the supergravity C-field – and its cancellation – is in

A summary and review of this is in

The discussion in twisted nonabelian differential cohomology is given in

Discussion with Dirac charge quantization of the C-field in twisted Cohomotopy:

and in equivariant Cohomotopy:

Discussion of the dual 6-form field to the 3-form C-field (required notably in the context of exceptional generalized geometry) includes

Discussion of discrete torsion (orbifold equivariance) for circle 3-bundles describing the supergravity C-field is discussed in

  • Eric Sharpe, Analogues of Discrete Torsion for the M-Theory Three-Form, Phys.Rev. D68 (2003) 126004 (arXiv:hep-th/0008170)

  • Shigenori Seki, Discrete Torsion and Branes in M-theory from Mathematical Viewpoint, Nucl.Phys. B606 (2001) 689-698 (arXiv:hep-th/0103117)

and applied to discussion of black M2-brane worldvolume field theory (ABJM model) in

Last revised on July 23, 2022 at 17:52:22. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.